Have No Fear, Bond is Here: 50 Years of Casino Royale

Poster for Charles K. Feldman's 1967 version of Casino Royale

Poster for Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 version of Casino Royale

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

It was a day of 2002 when my father bought me a VHS tape of the 1967 satirical version of Casino Royale, then the only film tied to Ian Fleming’s much different book that initiated the literary saga of James Bond.

That video had no subtitles in Spanish, and by then my English knowledge was good but not good enough to understand a movie. If the film’s plot was already confusing, misguided and in many aspects “incomplete,” just imagine a 12-year-old boy trying to get something out of it, barely understanding a few words and having not read the novel.

Strangely enough, I was fascinated by the movie. I still am.

The Charles K. Feldman production is a colorful, bombastic and very funny film: you won’t be laughing for hours, but there are a few humorous moments that will make you raise a smile.

It has a great score, with the legendary Burt Bacharach and the Herb Alpert trumpets for the main titles. And there’s the delicate voice of Dusty Springfield, who performed the Oscar-nominated song that has outlived the movie, “The Look of Love.”

‘Suggested by’

The story, “suggested” by Fleming’s novel and written by, among others, Wolf Mankowitz, has the four leaders of the secret services begging the retired Sir James Bond (David Niven) for help after a mysterious threat has agents of every secret service killed.

Sir James refuses, disappointed by the abuse of gadgetry in the operatives and upset for “the bounder who was been given his name and number,” an obvious reference to Sean Connery’s official 007.

Failing every attempt to bring him back, a missile (actually a plan of M to take him out of retirement) blows his mansion away. Back to London, Sir James plans a strategy to confuse the enemy: to recruit a number of agents and name them all “James Bond 007,” including the girls.

What follows is an absolute nonsense. Peter Sellers is seduced by Ursula Andress and recruited to play baccarat against Orson Welles. The daughter of Mata Hari and James Bond are kidnapped by an UFO. A psychedelic mind torture replaces the infamous carpet beater from the novel.

Woody Allen, pioneering a look for Bond villains that would be seen in the official 007 film series

Woody Allen, pioneering a look for Bond villains that would be seen in the official 007 film series

And the evil threat behind it all… the nephew of 007, Jimmy Bond.

In the end, after an everyone vs everyone battle that includes George Raft, Jean Paul Belmondo, Geraldine Chaplin and dozens of Indians and cowboys, everything goes up in smoke.

Messy production

The production of the film was messy, with the stars fighting each other almost like at the end of the movie, and Peter Sellers rewriting his scenes and hassling with Orson Welles to the point their scenes had to be shot separately.

The film was directed by five movie makers (John Houston, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, Joe McGrath and Val Guest) not knowing what the other was shooting. Yet, I don’t think Casino Royale is a bad movie.

The best advice is to fully enjoy it would be to put the novel aside, forget every comparison to the official Bond films, sit back and enjoy an hilarious and colourful story that resembles the swinging 1960s. The structure of the story evokes another Charles K. Feldman production, What’s New Pussycat, released two years before.

The cast has a good number of very talented actors that maybe don’t show all their talents and even when their appearances are limited to a few frames, it wasn’t bad to see them. Yet, in my opinion, the ones that steal the show are David Niven and Woody Allen.

Niven, an original suggestion of Fleming to portray Bond, plays a refined 007 in his retirement. The movie shows him as a man worried about banal things like the black flower in his garden, his time to play Claude Debussy pieces on piano, and came from “a selected priesthood” to become a spy.

This Bond shows a great difference with Eon’s version. He refuses the seduction of the many young girls who laid eyes on him at McTarry’s castle and rejects his widow (Deborah Kerr), considers a spy has now became a “sex maniac” and his trademark drink is a lapsang souchong tea instead of a martini shaken not stirred. In Feldman’s vision, this is not Connery’s Bond retired but “one and only” and Connery’s Bond an impostor.

On the other hand, Woody Allen’s Dr. Noah – head of SMERSH, no reference is made to the Soviets as in the book – is seen in the shadows until his real identity is revealed: Jimmy Bond.

The nephew of Sir James can’t speak in front of him – a trauma makes his voice block upon the admiration of his uncle. Shortly after, we see him trying to impress (and ultimately falling into her trap) the captive agent Detainer (Daliah Lavi) by replicating all the abilities of his uncle: “everything uncle James does, I can do it better.”

Another special mention goes to Joanna Pettet and the late Ronnie Corbett in the Berlin scenes, where Pettet’s character Mata Bond (daughter of Sir James and Mata Hari) infiltrates the old dancing school of her mum that has become a SMERSH hideout, to find a battery operated butler who – falling into Mata’s seduction — reveals Le Chiffre is trying to make money by selling his “art collection,” actually… soldiers caught in the act having fun with hookers.

Like I said before, this movie has won my heart. I would not dare to put it next to the Eon Bond films (not in chronological order, at least) but as I get older, I understand its humor more and more.

Everytime I watch it, I feel like getting into a time machine and going back to the late 1960s. And it’s a great experience indeed!

HMSS talks to Jon Burlingame about his 007 music book

Image of the cover of The Music of James Bond from the book’s Amazon.com page (don’t click it won’t work here; see link at bottom of this post).

Jon Burlingame, who has written extensively about film and television music, is coming out with a new book, The Music of James Bond. He’s come up with some research that should intrigue 007 fans. Example: one of the singers of Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, originally intended to be Thunderball’s title song was involved in a lawsuit to try to stop release of the fourth James Bond film.

We did an interview by e-mail. He provided a preview of his book. The author didn’t want to give away too much in our interview, including identifying which Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang singer was involved. Both Shirley Bassey and Dionne Warwick performed the song before Eon Productions went with Tom Jones singing Thunderball.

Anyway, the interview follows:

HMSS: Did you come across information that you found surprising? If so, what was it?

BURLINGAME: I was able to piece together the chronology of what happened with “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” — the unused theme for THUNDERBALL — which had always eluded previous writers and researchers. And I discovered that one vocalist was so incensed about the failure to use her recording that her company sued the producers to attempt to stop distribution of the film in late 1965. (She didn’t succeed, of course.) It was a stunning new discovery and, to me, one of the most fascinating stories in the book.

I also got Paul Williams to recall many of his unused lyrics for MOONRAKER and Johnny Mathis to confirm that he recorded that song, which no one has ever heard. I successfully unraveled the story of the missing Eric Clapton recordings for LICENCE TO KILL and the sad and unfortunate tale of why John Barry was ready to score TOMORROW NEVER DIES and how studio politics derailed it. I obtained new details about the aborted Amy Winehouse song for QUANTUM OF SOLACE and finally got to the bottom of the story involving “No Good About Goodbye,” which has always been rumored to be an unused QoS song.

HMSS:How long did it take to prepare The Music of James Bond? How many of the principals were you able to interview directly?

BURLINGAME: It took eight months to write — and about 45 years of intense interest before that. I signed the contract with Oxford in May 2011 and delivered a final manuscript in December. Like any film-related history that covers several decades, it required considerable research as well as interviews with those key players who were still with us. I had interviewed John Barry often since the late 1980s, so I had material from him prior to his passing.

New interviews included Monty Norman, Vic Flick, Leslie Bricusse, Don Black, Hal David, producer Phil Ramone (OHMSS), engineers Eric Tomlinson and John Richards, Sir George Martin, Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, Paul Williams, Bill Conti, Tim Rice, Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Maryam d’Abo, Narada Michael Walden and Diane Warren (LICENCE TO KILL), Eric Serra (GOLDENEYE), David Arnold, conductor Nicholas Dodd (the Arnold films), and Madonna (DIE ANOTHER DAY), among others. {plus extensive, previously unused interviews I had done with Michael Kamen (LICENCE TO KILL) and Michel Colombier (DIE ANOTHER DAY) before each passed away.

HMSS: What is your view of the disputes related to the creation of The James Bond Theme? To some laymen, it really does sound like Barry at the very least added a lot to Monty Norman’s work.

BURLINGAME: He did. The story is very, very complicated, as anyone who followed the London court case should understand. The creation of a piece of music for a film — whether in 1962 or in 2012 — can be a complex process involving a melody line, the addition of rhythm and countermelodies, bridges, etc., and performance issues related to what instruments are being used and how. So it started with Monty Norman and an unused song from an unrealized production; passed through the hands of his own orchestrator; reached John Barry, who undertook what one expert witness at the trial called an “extreme” arrangement; and when Barry called in guitarist Vic Flick, he added his own special touches before the theme was recorded for the first time. To his credit, Norman — despite his differences with Barry over the years — continues to credit Barry with the definitive orchestration of his theme.

I would urge Bond fans to read my first chapter very carefully before drawing, or modifying, their own conclusions. I believe it is as complete a chronicle of the creation of the “James Bond Theme” as is possible at this date.

HMSS: Harry Saltzman almost killed the title songs to Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever and while liking the Live And Let Die song didn’t want Paul McCartney to perform it. Are there any other examples of this sort of thing (not restricted to Saltzman)?

BURLINGAME: From the beginning, it’s always really been a kind of crap shoot to try and create a song that would serve the film but also reach the pop charts to serve the broader promotional needs of the film and be successful on its own. There has always been second-guessing, from the examples you cited to the rush job on MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, the last-minute decision to change lyricists and singers on MOONRAKER, the involvement of record-company people on the songs for A VIEW TO A KILL, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and LICENCE TO KILL, and finally the deep involvement of the studio music department on films like TOMORROW NEVER DIES, DIE ANOTHER DAY and the 2006 CASINO ROYALE. I detail all of these in the book.

For a long time, no composer not named John Barry did a second turn as a 007 film composer, until David Arnold came along. What did he bring to the table that the likes of Bill Conti, Marvin Hamlisch, etc., didn’t?.

BURLINGAME: I don’t think it’s fair to compare David Arnold with Conti and Hamlisch. Each composer tried to do his best with the film he was given. The circumstances were different in each case. All three attempted to “modernize” the Bond sound in their own way, with Hamlisch and Conti applying the pop rhythm sounds of their day (1977, 1981). Arnold came along at a time when the largely electronic (Eric) Serra
score for GOLDENEYE proved problematic for the filmmakers and they were eager to return to a more “traditional” sound. Arnold’s TOMORROW NEVER DIES score took the classic Barry sound and “updated” it with contemporary synth and rhythm-track sounds that proved just right for that film. He delivered what was needed and thus was retained — especially in a time of risk-averse studio thinking that often says, “that worked, that movie made money, let’s have more of that.”

HMSS: What qualities make James Bond scores different than scores of other movies?

BURLINGAME: One of the main points of the book is the assertion that these composers invented a new kind of action-adventure scoring for the Bond films. Partly pop, partly jazz, partly traditional orchestral scoring, the 007 films demanded music that could be variously romantic, suspenseful, drive the action, even punctuate the humor.

It was a tall order, and John Barry, especially, delivered what was necessary and helped define James Bond in a way that wasn’t possible with the visuals alone.

John Barry


HMSS: John Barry won five Oscars for his film work but never for a Bond movie. Meanwhile, Marvin Hamlisch got nominated for his score for The Spy Who Loved Me, and three title songs where Barry was absent (Live And Let Die, Nobody Does It Better and For Your Eyes Only) got nominated. Why was that?

BURLINGAME: This is a sore point with me. “We Have All the Time in the World” and “Diamonds Are Forever” are two of the greatest movie songs of their time, and both should have been nominated. But the reality is that the Bond films were not taken seriously as artistic achievements at the time, and neither song was a big hit (while record sales helped to drive Barry’s “Born Free” into Oscar territory, and the Bacharach-David “The Look of Love” from (1967’s) CASINO ROYALE was from a very popular, L.A.-based hitmaking team and so was an obvious choice for Oscar attention).

“Live and Let Die,” “Nobody Does It Better” and “For Your Eyes Only” went to no. 2, no. 2 and no. 4 on the American charts, respectively, and thus could not be ignored at Oscar time on the basis of their commercial success alone.

I think you could make a case that “You Only Live Twice,” “We Have All the Time in the World,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” “All Time High” and “Surrender” from TOMORROW NEVER DIES could and should have been nominated for Oscar. Maybe even “You Know My Name” from CASINO ROYALE, which has grown on me over the years. Changing Oscar rules in recent years hasn’t helped, but this year, with five nominees for Best Song assured because of a rule change, I think it’s quite likely that we may have a Bond song in contention.

HMSS: What do you think is the best Bond film score? What do you think is the most underrated?

BURLINGAME: You can’t ask a guy who spent six months listening to nothing but Bond
music to choose just one!

I love every note of both GOLDFINGER and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. I think FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER are terrific scores in every way. And the fact that I grew up in that era may influence my passion for the early Bond scores, when the Barry concept and sound
was so fresh and exciting. I believe THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS may be the most underrated score. There is so much original melodic and rhythmic material there, and a very contemporary sound for 1987; I feel that Barry went out on a very high note with his last Bond score. I also think there is much to admire in Arnold’s first two Bond scores, TOMORROW NEVER DIES and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, and I think his unused song from the latter, “Only Myself to Blame” (with Don Black lyrics) ranks with “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” as another of the unsung masterpieces of Bond music.

HMSS: What do you think Thomas Newman brings to Skyfall?

BURLINGAME: I very much look forward to the SKYFALL score. Every few years there is a new voice in Bond music — this year we have two, in Adele and Thomas Newman — and it’s always a good thing to reexamine what makes Bond music work. Arnold tried to do that with each new Bond score, but I think Newman will offer a fresh musical point of view and I can’t wait to hear what he brings.

For information about ordering the book, CLICK HERE to view Amazon.com’s Web site. You can look at some pages on the Amazon site BY CLICKING HERE.

UPDATE (Sept. 28): Jon Burlingame passes on the following about “rejected” James Bond title songs:

One of the book’s appendices is a chronicle of “would-be” Bond songs. There is a widespread notion out there that these were “rejected” (Johnny Cash for THUNDERBALL, Alice Cooper for GOLDEN GUN, etc.) when in fact most were, at best, unsolicited demos that never even reached the producers, who were not in the habit of entertaining song suggestions from outsiders.

The idea that Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were sitting round their offices listening to these and giving them serious consideration is the height of lunacy.

There really was a “cattle call” for songs for TOMORROW NEVER DIES, but that was done by the studio, not the producers, and I detail the unhappy results in the book.

Hal David, an appreciation

Hal David

Hal David, who contributed lyrics to songs in three James Bond movies, died on Sept. 1 at age 91. He’s not really remembered for his 007 contributions because he wrote lyrics to many popular songs, especially in collaboration with Burt Bacharach. But he merits mention for his Bond film work also.

The 1967 Casino Royale spoof produced by Charles K. Feldman is an uneven movie. Still, Bacharach’s score and the songs he did with David were a highlight, especially “The Look of Love” performed by Dusty Springfield. David went on to work two times on the Eon Productions series, collaborating with John Barry on songs for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The main Barry-David offering was “We Have All the Time in the World” performed by Louis Armstrong.

A decade later, David worked with Barry one more time on the title song of 1979’s Moonraker, whose title song would be the third, and final, performance by Shirley Bassey in a James Bond movie.

Both “The Look of Love” and “We Have All the Time in the World” are memorable (the latter revived many years later for a beer commercial). “Moonraker” doesn’t get the kudos of other Bond title songs but it’s still a collaboration of three highly professional individuals in composer Barry, lyricist David and singer Bassey.

It should also be noted that David’s older brother Mack (1912-1993) also dabbled in the spy genre, writing lyrics for songs in two Matt Helm movies, The Silencers and The Wrecking Crew. Mack David also co-wrote the title song to 77 Sunset Strip and other Warner Bros. television shows.

Mad Men meets 007 (not once, but twice)

Mad Men, the popular drama on cable network AMC, had its season finale on June 10, which included not one, but two, James Bond references.

The most noticeable was how the episode ended with Nancy Sinatra’s rendition of You Only Live Twice, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse. The fifth 007 film made by Eon Productions premiered premiered 45 years ago this month.

However, there was an earlier Bond reference, albeit a brief one. Near the episode’s conclusion, Jon Hamm’s Don Draper was in a movie theater. While no images of the movie were shown, the first several notes of Burt Bacharach’s main theme to the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, could be heard. That film had its 45th anniversary in April.

The Sinatra song has an interesting back story, familar to many, if not most, 007 fans. Namely, Barry and Bricusse wrote two versions. The first, performed by Julie Rogers, was deemed not good enough. The second, the Nancy Sinatra version, is a 007 fan favorite though Sinatra was so nervous, the song had to be cobbled together from multiple takes. If Mad Men fans are curious (and don’t already know the story), a 2006 special on U.K. television about the 007 theme songs provides the details:

This isn’t the first time Mad Men referenced 1960s spy entertainment. In 2010, the popular show included a clip from a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: Time magazine’s review of the episode picks up the You Only Live Twice connection and runs with it.

Hal David and his impact on the world of 007

Lyricist Hal David, who turned 90 earlier this year, will be the subject of a musical tribute Oct. 17 in Los Angeles. David enjoyed a prolific career and had an impact on the musical side of James Bond movies.

When it comes to Bond songs, John Barry’s music and lyrics from the likes of Don Black, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley understandably dominate the conversation because of classics such as Goldfinger, Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever and You Only Live Twice.

But David actually worked on three 007 movies. Of course, the first of those three was the 1967 spoof Casino Royale. That movie wasn’t part of the film series from Eon Productions. It has a lot of flaws, is extremely uneven thanks to multiple directors and a gaggle of screenwriters. However, the Burt Bacharach score and songs by Bacharach and David were among the movie’s pluses.

David then worked on two films of the Eon series: 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and 1979’s Moonraker, both with John Barry as composer. David’s collaboration with Barry on We Have All the Time in the World produced one of the most memorable songs in the series, even if it wasn’t a commercial hit.

What follows are two segments from a 2006 television special about Bond songs that include David’s contributions to the musical world of 007. (For more information about the October event honoring David, JUST CLICK HERE.)

This first segment covers Casino Royale (in particular the song The Look of Love performed by Dusty Springfield) and Moonraker, the third of three Bond titles songs performed by Shirley Bassey:

This later segment describes how the song We Have All the Time in the World, performed by Louis Armstrong, came together.